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UK EU guitar sale

UK/Europe Clearance Sale

THREE DAYS ONLY. Up to 45% OFF with FREE SHIPPING. No extra taxes, No duties. All items are brand new. Limited Quantities! All prices are in USA Dollars. 

Fire Bird Sunburst – Reg: $959 SALE $659 SAVE $300

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Airline Newport Left-Hand – Reg: $1329 SALE $899 SAVE $430

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Custom Kraft DLX Sunburst – Reg: $719 SALE $539 SAVE $180

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Custom Kraft DLX Greenburst – Reg: $719 SALE $499 SAVE $220

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Airline Twin Tone Green – Reg: $599 SALE $479 SAVE $120

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Sidejack Baritone 1P – Reg: $599 SALE $450 SAVE $150

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Airline Link Wray Tribute – Reg: $959 SALE $679 SAVE $280

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Airline Jupiter Redburst – Reg: $599 SALE $479 SAVE $130

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Airline Folkstar Blue – Reg: $959 SALE $699 SAVE $260

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Eastwood S-200 Black – Reg: $839 SALE $479 SAVE $360

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Microfret Martian Green – Reg: $1999 SALE $890 SAVE $1100

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Eastwood Swinger – Reg: $599 SALE $359 SAVE $240

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Liberty MS-150 – Reg: $719 SALE $569 SAVE $150

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SOLD

 

 

Eastwood Wedgtail – Reg: $1079 SALE $699 SAVE $1000

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Be Stiff Bass – Reg:$599 SALE $479 SAVE $120

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Kingston Flying Wedge – Reg: $779 SALE $479 SAVE $300

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DEVO Whip It – Reg: $599 SALE $479 SAVE $120

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Mandocaster Black – Reg: $479 SALE $390 SAVE $90

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RD Artist Sunburst – Reg: $839 SALE $629 SAVE $210

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Sidejack EoC Metallic Red – Reg: $879 SALE $579 SAVE $300

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USA guitar sale

USA Clearance Sale

THREE DAYS ONLY. Up to 45% OFF with FREE SHIPPING. All items are brand new. Limited Quantities! 

Airline H77 Black – Reg: $699 SALE $579

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Eastwood LG-50 – Reg: $599 SALE $425

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Airline Twin Tone Green – Reg: $499 SALE $399

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Eastwood Fire Bird – Reg: $799 SALE $579

dhwhite




 

Sidejack Baritone 1P – Reg: $499 SALE $375

dhwhite




 

Eastwood S-200 Black – Reg: $699 SALE $399

norma3ts




Eastwood S-200 Sunburst – Reg: $699 SALE $399

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SOLD OUT

Microfret Martian Green – Reg: $999 SALE $749

micro-frets-f




 

Eastwood Swinger – Reg: $499 SALE $299

swingmasterSTD




 

Liberty MS-150 – Reg: $599 SALE $479

k2lred




 

Eastwood Wedgtail – Reg: $899 SALE $599

deerhoodblack




 

Be Stiff Bass – Reg:$499 SALE $399

h59cad




  Kingston Flying Wedge – Reg: $649 SALE $399

c4orange




 

DEVO Whip It – Reg: $499 SALE $399

c6blue




 

Mandocaster White – Reg: $399 SALE $329

mandoblk




 

RD Artist Sunburst – Reg: $699 SALE $529

rd3ts





IMG_20161106_214346

THE SMARTER GUITAR NUT #3: Strap Buttons – Part 1

Hey, fellow Guitar Nuts, consider your humble strap buttons. Where would we be without them? Well, for one thing, we’d probably all be playing our guitars and basses while sitting down rather than leaping about while wildly wind-milling power chords. In summary, while some incredible guitar playing can be performed while seated, to (almost) quote Dires Straits’ song The Sultans of Swing: “It ain’t what we call rock and roll!”  

As with so many other things, the best way to show the importance of strap buttons is to look at what happens if they simply aren’t there, or if they don’t work correctly, or when they aren’t where they should be. The consequences include dropped guitars and resulting damage to headstocks, necks, bodies and wallets.  Conclusion: strap buttons are pretty darned important.

In future articles, I’ll spend more time on guitar design theory and how to best position a strap button from the start to maximize playability, comfort and balance. Right now, although the issue of positioning or re-positioning a strap button will come up, I’m going to focus on strap button issues in the context of collectible guitars. This is important because strap button-related issues are among the most common concerns when it comes to what should or should not be done to a collectible instrument.

First and foremost, you have to know what to look for as to whether an instrument has its original strap buttons in their original places. If you’re not sure, my usual recommendation (for just about anything) is that you deal with a reputable and knowledgeable seller and keep your trusted guitar tech in the loop. In addition, because we want to make you a Smarter Guitar Nut, you can educate yourself on this subject pretty quickly since there is abundant information on-line including pictures of almost any instrument and numerous other resources such as scans of original ads and vintage manufacturers’ catalogues.

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The most common type of strap button, found on many brands including Gibson and Fender. These are easy to obtain including reliced versions like the one on the right.

 

You’ll notice there’s a pretty limited range of strap button types. Indeed, the most common type is used on the majority of electric guitars including Fenders and Gibsons. If these need to be replaced, they are readily available, including reasonably priced reliced versions. Just to keep life interesting, there are also, of course, a few very unusual types strap buttons and related hardware which, if missing, can be very hard to replace.

 

Once you’re sure what to look for, you can recognize whether a strap button has been replaced, added or re-positioned. An appropriate, well-installed replacement should- I suggest – not be a concern in terms of collectability and value. The big problems are:

  • If a strap button has been added, it means there’s a hole in the guitar that wasn’t there originally. While the strap button is left in place, you can’t see that hole, but it means the button has to stay put regardless of where it is. Worse, if the installation wasn’t done neatly, there might be some additional cosmetic or even structural damage.
  • If a strap button has been repositioned, this is a bit more serious because it means there’s now an extra hole in the guitar that might or might not be able to be touched up.
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The strap loop on an old Kay Pro bass. If it’s missing, it will be tough to find a replacement.

Serious issues about added or repositioned strap buttons will be addressed in a future column. For now, you need to know two things:

  1. As a buyer, this is something you need to ask about and as an owner/potential seller it’s something you need to stop and consider before making any changes yourself; and,
  2. Strap button issues can affect the value of a collectible guitar, whether or not that alteration makes perfectly good sense in terms of improved balance and playability.

If changes or repairs have been or have to be made, you can decide if that’s a deal breaker.

Once you’ve got any issues resolved, if all that’s left is that a strap button is a bit loose, the fix is simple (that is: it’s simple if you’re dealing with a solid body guitar, hollow bodies will be dealt with in the next article):

IMG_20161106_213145

A small piece of dowel, marked to show to show the depth of the screw hole.

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Always wipe off any excess glue.

1) Remove the loose screw and the strap button;

2) Insert a piece of 1/8” dowel (or the traditional piece of match stick) into the hole and mark it to that depth;

3) Remove the dowel and cut it at the mark so it is the same length as the depth of the hole;

4) Coat the dowel with a thin, even layer of glue (white or, preferably yellow…not epoxy or super glue) and push it back into the hole;

5) Then, re-install the strap button.

6) If any excess glue squeezes out of the hole, remove the screw, wipe off the excess glue so none remains on the surface of the guitar and re-install.

An important note here about the term “tighten up”. This always means to turn something just until it stops. It does ­not mean turning it until it stops and then trying to turn it more with all your might. When tightening any component on a guitar with any tool, the rule is: Don’t force it! There are (almost) no guitar-repair situations where it is a good idea to try to force something to go more than it seems to want to go. If you ignore that warning, things can turn out very badly. How badly? Well, let’s just say there will be a future column dedicated to dealing with broken or stripped screws that remain stuck in places where you do not want them to be stuck.

If you manage to tighten up both strap buttons, congratulate yourself. You’ve just repaired one of the most common issues to be dealt with on almost any guitar. This fix should not affect the value of almost any instrument.

If, after going through the steps above two or three times, a screw still doesn’t tighten up, its hole has to be doweled and re-drilled.

Dowelling and re-drilling a hole is a much more complicated procedure and the typical Smarter Guitar Nut would be indeed smarter to pass it over to his trusted tech. The Smarter Guitar Nut who is a bit more experienced with basic repair work should practice dowelling and re-drilling only on very expendable guitars or on scrap wood. We’ll deal with this procedure in a subsequent instalment of the Smarter Guitar Nut.

How to Fix a Warped Pickguard

By: Chris McMahon

There’s a lot of bad information on the internet, as I was reminded while trying to resuscitate a recent score: a Silver Sparkle 20th Anniversary Squier Jagmaster.

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Don’t laugh, it’s paid for!

It’s not a guitar for everyone, but I bought my first about five years ago when I started playing guitar again as an adult. It was fun and cheap, and with a little bit of elbow grease it cleaned up nicely and, after a pro setup, played great. Then I set my sights on more “appropriate” guitars and got myself a Fender Highway One Stratocaster, you know, a proper “dad” guitar.

 Selling the Jagmaster was a mistake (as my daughter frequently reminded me), and when I had some “mad money” recently, I started searching for a replacement. A couple weeks later, I picked one up through Reverb.com. It was a little more expensive than I would have hoped and rougher than I expected. The strings were crusty, every tuner and bolt was loose, and the pickguard was warped. But the electronics worked, the neck was straight, and there was almost no fret wear, though they were dull and a little rough.

All that stuff is easy enough to fix as part of a regular cleanup and restring. This one needed a little more, and in addition to my new and regularly applied Dremel and Nu Finish fret polish routine, which I’ll show next, I decided to fix the damn pickguard. I reckon if a third of a guitar’s face looks off, it’s going to show. And at the very least, it’s going to gnaw at me. Forever. Or until I’m done losing sleep over it and fix it, so why not do it now?

A quick Google search brought up no shortage of bad ideas, all suggesting that you essentially bake the pickguard and, before it melts, burns, discolors or sets off the smoke alarms, pull it out of the oven — careful not to stretch it — and stack books on it till it cools and lays flat.

If you’re inclined to follow that advice, I’m going to guess you don’t have enough books around to pull off that stunt. That said, follow the steps below at your own peril, as I did, and don’t do this to a vintage instrument.

 

            Here’s how I fixed a warped pickguard:

1. Remove the pickguard from the guitar, and electronics from the pickguard.

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Here you can see the bowing of the pickguard

2. Clear some space and wash the dishes in the kitchen sink. You’ll want the room to work, and you’ll score some points with the wife or roommate.

3. Find a cookie sheet or cutting board that’s bigger than your pickguard, but that fits in your sink.

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4. Boil some water – enough to fill the sink and cover the cutting board and pickguard with another inch or so. I used a kettle and the biggest pot we have to boil some more.

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5. Put the cookie sheet/cutting board in the sink, and place the pickguard in face down, so you don’t scratch it up like I did.

 

6. Pour the boiling water over it, then put the pot, with the hot water in it, on top.

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7. Wait 2 minutes.

8. Remove the pot, then the cutting board with pickguard, and re-stack them to cool.

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I let the whole thing cool for about 10 minutes after 2 minutes in the sink.

9. Enjoy a victory beer.

10. Buff it out with car wax, I use Nu Finish.

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That’s flat!

 

11. Reinstall, etc.

 

There are more than a couple benefits to using hot water rather than an oven. It’s a lot more controllable, as you can see the pickguard throughout the entire process, and the timing is flexible without introducing the possibility of smoke, fire or nasty fumes.

 

 

 

12 Songs for 12 Strings

While the twelve string guitar has been around for over a century, its role as a foreground instrument only surfaced in relatively recent rock and roll history. Sure, the instrument was favored by the likes of early blues artists “Lead Belly” and “Blind Willie McTell” in the 1920’s and ’30s, but at that time the instrument would have been used as an accompaniment at best. That said, their use of the twelve string in blues music is perhaps the main reason the twelve string began to come to prominence in the rock and roll world of the ’50s and ’60s. Their influence, along with the skyrocketing popularity of the electric guitar at the time gave musicians the idea to see what a twelve string could bring to their songs. The result? In a word… “Jangle!” We all know the sound. It is instantly recognizable as a twelve string guitar, and when you hear it, it truly makes you want to have one.

The following is my top twelve list of songs that evoke that feeling. Whether you love or hate the song, you can’t deny the infectious sound of the twelve string, nor can you help but wonder “would the song be the same without it?” To keep things interesting, I’ve only allowed myself to list one song per artist.

The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

What sort of list of twelve string songs would be complete without mentioning “the Byrds”?! They’re easily one of the first groups to come to mind when you think of that twelve string jangle. Influenced by the Beatles and the film “A Hard Days Night”, Byrds guitar player Roger McGuinn picked up a Rickenbacker twelve string to incorporate into their sound. Their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” was the first single to be released by the Byrds, and went on to become the first smash hit in the world of folk-rock.


The Beatles – Ticket to Ride

As George Harrison and the Beatles can be credited with bringing the twelve string guitar to mainstream pop music, they are definitely deserving of a spot on this list. They’ve got more than a couple songs that could stand here in place of “Ticket to Ride”, but that intro riff just showcases the twelve string perfectly. Not to mention, its pretty simple to play!

Rush – Closer to the Heart

Fast forward a few years, and you can hear the twelve string being used in a very similar way to those early bands who pioneered its use. The guitar introduces the song here, and really just sets the tone for the whole song. In addition to the arpeggiated melody played in the intro, this song makes great use of the “full” sound you can get by strumming on a twelve string. With the full band playing, the guitar really fills in its spot and can clearly be heard as a twelve string.

Boston – More than a Feeling

Perhaps their biggest hit, “More than a Feeling” was featured on Boston’s debut album in 1976. Again, we have the twelve string guitar introducing the song with arpeggiated chords. There’s a distinct “pretty” sort of sound you get when you hear a suspended chord resolve on its major counterpart, and there’s no denying that doing so on a twelve string just adds to that “prettiness”! The intro to this song makes good use of this, as well as a chord progression that makes it sound circular and complete.

Tom Petty – Free Fallin

Here’s another example of those suspended chord transitions! In fact, it even revolves around a D chord shape like in the previous song – but with a capo on your third fret. There really isn’t much to this song as far as guitar playing goes, but who doesn’t know this riff? The whole song is based on  those simple chords being strummed on a twelve string guitar. It simply wouldn’t have the same vibe if a six string was used in its place.

Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive

Anyone who grew up in the ’80s or ’90s will know the opening riff to this pop-rock anthem. Heck, anyone who listens to the radio should know it! For the “ballad” era of rock and roll, this song stands easily as one of the most recognizable. The descending Dm arpeggios in the beginning of the song are played on a twelve string, and the octave pairing of the G strings is what really gives the riff its mysterious, “shimmering” sound.

Led Zeppelin – Over the Hills and Far Away

Of all the great songs Zeppelin has written with a twelve string guitar, I always come back to “Over the Hills and Far Away” as my personal favourite. If you think it’s fun playing that intro riff on your six string, pick up a twelve string and give it a go. Instant satisfaction!

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Just by reading the title of the song, you get the idea that the songwriter is yearning for someone (or something) from the past. Then you hear the subtle twelve string enter with an effect that makes it sound like it’s coming through an AM radio, and the mood is set! It’s one of the most recognizable songs in Pink Floyd’s catalog, and a fantastic example of a twelve string guitar being put to good use.

Wild Horses – Rolling Stones

Stripped back and straight to the point, “Wild Horses” is a rock ballad that gives us the raw simplicity of a twelve string being played as a rhythm instrument. Fun to strum along with, and an all around great song, it’s not a surprise that this one is often covered by rock bands around the world.

Give a Little Bit –  Roger Hodgson (Supertramp)

For whatever reason, it seems that there’s a universal acceptance that the key of D is where the 12 string “belongs”. Roger Hodgson’s “Give a Little Bit” is another one of many that are built around this key using a twelve string guitar. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s another timeless classic!

And You And I – Yes

I chose to put “And You And I” on this list not only because it’s a great song, but also because the twelve string is really put through its paces here. From the opening of the song with its brilliant natural harmonics to the strumming patterns used in the verses of the song, the twelve string really shines in the forefront throughout.

 

The Eagles – Hotel California

Featuring one of the most well-known twelve string riffs in rock and roll history, “Hotel California” is likely one of the songs to have been on the tip of your tongue when you read the title of this article. It’s a classic that’s here to stay, and it’s hard to imagine the recording without the mysterious jangle of the twelve string.

Technique 101: Five Songs You Should Learn

Whether it was Jimi Hendrix ripping through a solo with his strat behind his head, or Michael Hedges creating soundscapes on his acoustic with both hands on the neck, somewhere down the line somebody inspired you to pick up a guitar. As much as you wanted to, however, you likely weren’t able to immediately bust out the solo to “Red House” or play through “Aerial Boundaries”.
As with anything, learning to play the guitar should be approached with baby steps. You need to learn to walk before you can run, and in order to play like your heroes you’ll need a solid grasp on some fundamentals first.
While finger exercises, scales, and theory may be important, you can pick up a lot of technical know-how just by learning a few introductory level songs. The most important part is to find songs that aren’t too demanding, and are achievable with regular practise. Below I’ll list five techniques, and a good candidate of a song / riff you can learn to start getting used to them. Let’s start with the basics…

1. Chord Changes – “Hey Joe”, by Jimi Hendrix

 

aye

One of the first obstacles you’ll be faced with when learning to play is memorizing chords, and figuring out how the heck you’re supposed to contort your fingers to switch between them. The truth is, these “shapes” that your fingers need to be placed in are not built into your DNA. There’s nothing else you’ve ever had to do that requires your hand, wrist, or fingers to hold such patterns, and as such you’ve got to work them into shape. The only way to teach yourself (and your hand) these chords is through repetition and practise; it’s all about muscle memory here.

The song “Hey Joe” is a great introductory to chord changes for a few different reasons. The first is that it forces you to learn five essential major chords, C, G, D, A, and E. The second is… it’s only five chords! The entire rhythm guitar section of the song is just a loop of these five chords in a relatively simple strumming pattern, so if you can manage the switches, then you’ve got it down. The third reason deals with the chords in question. Some chords are easier to switch between than others, allowing you to leave a finger or two in the same spot. Some chords allow you to play all six strings, while others demand that you avoid a string or two. Some chords require the use of one finger to hold down multiple strings… and the list goes on. In “Hey Joe”, each chord is far enough apart from each other that you are required to make a substantial shape change, getting your hand used to arriving at and leaving each chord. It also exercises your strumming hand, as you’re required to play all six strings for a couple of the chords, and only some of the strings for the others. If you can play through this tune, then you’re well on your way to saying goodbye to your chord changing woes.

2. Fingerpicking – “Blackbird”, by The Beatles

 

beat

If you’ve spent most of your practise time strumming chords, or plucking out melodies with your pick, learning to fingerpick might be a daunting task at first. This technique is, of course, all about your picking hand, and getting your fingers used to where your strings are. What I mean by that is, at first you will likely be looking down at your picking hand, making sure you use the “right” finger on the “right” string, etc. The more you practise, the more you will just get accustomed to the distance between each string, as well as various patterns that tend to appear in songs. This is part of the reason I like “Blackbird” for an introductory to this technique.

As far as the right hand is concerned, the song revolves around just two patterns. Try this: hold a G chord, and with your thumb and middle finger pluck the low E string and the open B string together at the same time. Then pluck the open G string on its own with your first finger. Repeat these over and over… and you’ve essentially got the picking hand pattern used for half of the song. Of course… your thumb will occasionally move to the A or D string, but you can worry about that later. A large portion of this song is about getting used to moving back and forth between your index finger and second finger, while maintaining a bass-line with your thumb…which is sort of the whole idea behind fingerpicking! It’s a great way to practise, while playing through a great song.

3. Counting / Rhythm – “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” by Stevie Ray Vaughan

 

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The most important thing in playing a musical instrument is rhythm. Whether you’re playing on your own, or as part of a group, you need to be able to keep time. Some patterns are easy of course, just strumming along in 4/4 time, but if you really want to challenge yourself and start to unlock your “inner metronome”, you’ll need to try out some more complex patterns. Try to test yourself – whenever you play, keep your foot tapping along to the beat of whatever it is you’re playing. The opening riff in “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” is a good challenge for this – it combines a relatively simple melodic riff with a syncopated sort of rhythm. It contains various notes and rests that land both on and off the beat, making for an unexpected feel. With a stronger sense of rhythm and larger vocabulary of patterns, you will find it much easier both locking into a groove as well as coming up with your own ideas.

4. Power Chords – “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones

ram

 

A power chord is just two notes of a chord played at the same time; the root, and the fifth. Doing so means that you don’t need to worry whether or not the chord in question is supposed to be major or minor, as both would have the same root and fifth anyways. You can incorporate the octave as well, as it doesn’t make things much more difficult, and adds a nice upper layer to the sound of the chord.
More often than not, you will find yourself playing power chords with their root note on either the low E string or the A string. Thanks to the way the guitar neck works, this means that the shape of these chords will never change.
For example, plant your first finger on the low E string of the fifth fret. Now plant your third finger on the A string of the seventh fret. You are now holding an “A5”  power chord! Want to add the octave? Just throw your pinky down on the D string of the seventh fret, below your third finger.
But what good would knowing how to play power chords be without knowing how to play some raw, straight to the point punk tunes to go with them? While they may not have invented them, the Ramones’ sound encapsulates everything that the “power” chord exists for; straight to the point, loud, and fast!
The song “Blitzkrieg Bop” will get you used to holding the power chord shape, as well as moving up and down the neck to play each chord. You’ll also have to jump between the E and A as your root note, which is important to become accustomed to.
In addition to this fretting hand technique, the strumming you’ll be doing with your other hand is just as important. You’re only playing two or three strings here, so of course you don’t want to hear the others. At first it will be easier to just limit yourself, and play only the strings you are holding in the chord. In this way, however, you’ll soon realize that you can’t quite capture the same power and energy that Johnny Ramone did. So how do you fix that?
Muting. Being able to mute strings properly with your left hand is what will bring your power chord strumming to the next level. It’s sort of hard to put it into text, but whilst you hold down that A5 power chord, try to also lightly lie your first finger down across all the strings below (like you’re playing a barre chord). Doing this means that it doesn’t matter how many strings you hit – the only ones that will ring are the ones you want to hear. THIS is how you get the “power” out of your power chords – pure aggression with the strumming hand, and precision / articulation with the fretting hand.

5. Soloing – “Californication” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Playing a guitar solo is a culmination of things. It’s not just “playing a bunch of notes really fast”, but should be thought of moreso as the guitarists’ turn to takeover for the vocalist, and front the song. With that in mind, the way in which you approach your solo should be derived directly from the vibe of the song you are playing to. This means that you need to take everything into consideration – the chords used, the melody, the rhythm, the feel… the perfect solo is one that touches on all of these things, while throwing in bits of technique for flavour.
One way you can start to understand how to play a strong solo is to listen to guitar solos that you find to be memorable, and figure out what it is that they’ve done. Listen to the section as a whole, and try to emulate it. A good starter would be the solo in “Californication”. It isn’t blazing fast, but it is subtle and captures the essence of the song very well. You’ll pick up on a few techniques here and there throughout the solo, and start to be able to hear the difference between, for example, a bend and a slide, or a hammer-on and a picked note. It is also done in a clean tone, which means you are forced to nail the performance when you play it. Extremely over-driven amps have a tendency of “covering up” mistakes made when playing, so practising with a clean tone is a good way to truly hear what you’re putting into the guitar.

When Should I Change my Guitar Strings?

Picture this if you will: you’re playing on stage with your favourite guitar, and it’s almost your turn to steal the limelight. Thousands of screaming fans brace themselves for the part of the song they know all too well… your solo!

You rip into the first bend, and *SNAP* – your heart sinks as your once-tight B string is now a wet noodle flopping around between your fingers. You stumble through the rest of the song, frantically improvising parts that don’t require the use of that string, and when it’s all over you think to yourself “Well, I guess it’s time to put a new string on now.”
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The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” simply does not apply to guitar strings. The notion that you should only change a string if it breaks is completely backwards; even if you’re not planning on playing for thousands of screaming fans any time soon. The reality of guitar strings is that regardless of how fresh or old they are, there is always a chance that they can break. Whether you’re a seasoned pro with a guitar tech changing your strings every night, or a basement player with strings that haven’t been changed in months, a break can happen. With regular re-strings and proper instrument maintenance, however, it is far less likely that a break will occur, and you’ll be more likely to make it through a song with all six strings intact.

Why?

Strings can break for many reasons, and one of the biggest culprits for breakage is corrosion. Dead skin, sweat, and dirt build up on the strings over time, causing their metals to break down. The longer you leave the string on, the less stable it is going to become and make it more likely to break. Even if you aren’t regularly playing the instrument, the moisture content in the air will have a similar effect on the strings – it just might take a little longer than if you were playing it.

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That said, you can’t always blame the string when one breaks. If you’re consistently having issues with strings breaking, it might be a good idea to take a look at the bridge saddles, nut slots, or machine heads. Something could be sharp, or perhaps catching the string in a way it shouldn’t be.

Alright, enough about breaking strings! Preventing a string break is not the only reason for a change. In fact, it’s more of a byproduct of the real reasons.

Just as corrosion can lead to an eventual break, it also causes the string to not function to its full potential. A string covered in grime won’t resonate properly, and will sound dull and lifeless. On top of that, an older string has been under a lot of tension for a longer period of time. This means that it has been stretched more, which can result in more difficulty staying in tune. Changing your strings before they get to the point where they are coated in grime, corroded, or stretched to oblivion will keep them sounding fresh, lustrous, in tune, as well as help prevent them from breaking mid-song.

So then, the question becomes how do you know when a string is passed its expiry and it is time to change it?

For the more experienced player, it turns into a preference thing. Some players like the snappy sound of a brand new string, while others prefer the sound of strings that have been “broken in” a bit; maybe a couple days’ or even a week’s worth of play on them. Obviously not everyone has the luxury of being able to change strings every few days, so as a general rule of thumb I’d recommend aiming for a time period between two weeks and one month. Before you’re able to decide what it is you really like, there are a few things you can consider.

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1. Look and feel

If your strings are looking dull, or even black – and feel rough or sticky, it’s probably time to swap them out.

2. Sound and tuning

If your strings don’t sound as clear or present as you remember, and you’re having difficulty keeping your guitar in tune, you may want to change your strings.

3. Playing live or recording soon?

If you’ve got a date set, and can’t remember when you changed your strings last, then it’s a safe bet to change them up. Make sure you swap them out at least a few hours before you plan on hitting the stage though – brand new strings have a tendency of falling out of tune as they aren’t yet used to being brought to tension.

4. Budget

Of course, everything costs money. The best thing you can do is learn to properly re-string by yourself, and use a quality brand string. Make sure you use the same gauge strings as you had on your guitar previously, as changing sizes may throw your guitar’s neck out of whack… meaning you’ll need to spend more time or money to get it set-it up right!

That’s it, in a nutshell! As long as you keep these things in mind, you should be able to maintain a great sounding and feeling instrument that will really make you want to pick it up and play!

Five Guitar Techniques and the Players Who Made Them Famous

Most things in this world have gone through various changes or “evolutions” to get to how we know them today. When the wheel was invented, it’s not like Rolls-Royce launched their product line the next day – we just weren’t present during the time it took to move from “spinny stone circle” to “Phantom Coupé”. We simply can’t fathom a world that is without wheels, and it’s easy to take things like these for granted.

The guitar is something that yes, has had various updates and reworks – but fundamentally, it’s really just the same as it’s always been. Six strings and a piece of wood, maybe throw in some electronics if that’s your thing… an E note is an E note and a B is a B, these are all things that haven’t changed.
Perhaps what has changed more so over the years than the guitar itself is the way in which they are played. Musicians who have experimented, looked for new ways to approach things and for ways to make sounds never before heard on a guitar are what make the instrument so versatile today. Here’s a few techniques we all know about and where they came from:

1. The Power Chord

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How would punk and thrash metal have got anywhere if it weren’t for the use of these raw, stripped down, straight to the point delights of sound?
The power chord is, simply put, two notes played at the same time. They consist of a root note, and that note’s perfect fifth. While in theory, this sort of chord may have been used in music way before Pete Townsend blasted them out with his “windmill” strums, but it was the sound of over-driven guitars and rock music that really made them popular.
When you play more “full” chords with major or minor intervals, and add a bunch of gain and distortion to it, often times the resulting sound can become very messy and unclear – especially when paired with a full rock band. The frequencies within the two notes of a power chord mesh with each other in a way that allows them to remain clear, allowing you to crank the gain and really put some “power” behind your playing. A nice bonus is the fact that the shape of the chord remains constant all the way up and down the neck, allowing you to move between playing the chord and riffing much easier.
Use of the power chord on the guitar can be traced back to the early ’50s, in both Willie Johnson and Pat Hare’s playing – but perhaps the first mainstream and recognizable use would be by Link Wray in his hit song “Rumble”.

2.Controlled Feedback

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When the electric guitar was first invented as an instrument, feedback was an unwanted noise that came along whenever a guitar was played at high volume levels. Over time, methods were discovered that could significantly reduce and even prevent these noises from occurring. However, at some point in time somebody said “but I want that sound… how can we use that in my song?”
Allegedly, the first known deliberate use of Feedback in a rock song appears in the intro to “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles. John Lennon created the sound by leaning his semi-acoustic guitar against a guitar amp. Since then, controlled feedback and noise has been used by guitarists everywhere,  most notably by artists like Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Pete Townsend, and Lou Reed. More recently, manipulated feedback has become a signature sound among noise rockers and shredders alike, being featured in recordings and live performances by artists including Sonic Youth, Steve Vai, Nirvana, Tool, Nine Inch Nails, and Robert Fripp. Speaking of Robert Fripp, here’s an interesting quote from Tony Visconti on Robert’s work on David Bowie’s “Heroes”:
“Fripp [stood] in the right place with his volume up at the right level and getting feedback…Fripp had a technique in those days where he measured the distance between the guitar and the speaker where each note would feed back. For instance, an ‘A’ would feed back maybe at about four feet from the speaker, whereas a ‘G’ would feed back maybe three and a half feet from it. He had a strip that they would place on the floor, and when he was playing the note ‘F’ sharp he would stand on the strip’s ‘F’ sharp point and ‘F’ sharp would feed back better. He really worked this out to a fine science, and we were playing this at a terrific level in the studio, too.”

3. Fingerpicking

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This may seem so second nature that it’s hard to believe that someone, at some point in time had to come up with this as a method of playing. It’s not that playing an instrument with one’s fingers was first done on a guitar, but there have been so many evolutions and intricacies of this method particular to the guitar that I couldn’t go without mentioning it.
Fingerpicking is what you could refer to as a sub-category of the term “fingerstyle guitar”, which is a broader term used to describe the “playing of a guitar with one’s fingers”. Specifically, fingerpicking as a technique is used to play types of folk, country, blues, and rock music, and can be dated back to the days of “Ragtime” music in the early 20th century. As ragtime became popular, southern blues-guitar players sought to mimic the piano style by using their thumb as the pianist’s left hand, and their other fingers as the right. As a result, the style typically incorporates a steady rhythm pattern using the thumb on the bass strings, and a melody using the index, middle, and ring fingers on the treble strings.
Some of the earliest known recordings of this style can be heard by blues guitarists Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt, and Memphis Minnie. It wasn’t long before country artists such as Merle Travis and Chet Atkins picked up on the style, and added their own signature twist to it. Since then, countless guitarists have used this style across a wide spectrum of music, all contributing to the technique we know today.

 

4. “Sweep” Picking

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Perhaps most widely associated with speed-metal and shredding these days, the origins of the “sweep” are heavily rooted in Jazz. The technique was first used by virtuoso jazz guitarists Barney Kessel, Les Paul, and Tal Farlow in the ’50s, and didn’t make its way into the mainstream rock world until Ritchie Blackmore and Steve Hackett brought it there in the ’70s and ’80s. In the early ’90s, jazz-fusion guitarist Frank Gambale brought sweep picking into the limelight with both his music, and his instructional video / book about the technique. Today, it’s rare that you’d hear a new speed metal band that doesn’t use this technique, and shred guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen love to use these all over their solos.
This technique is essentially the playing of arpeggios at a very high rate of speed. That said, the way in which you pick the strings is not how you would typically pluck individual notes. In order to achieve such a high speed, it’s almost as if you are strumming a chord. Your picking hand moves in one fluid motion, while your fretting hand takes care of the note selection. This is a tricky technique to master, but an impressive one once you wrap your head around it!

5. Guitar Tapping

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Tapping is not a technique that is exclusive to the guitar. It can be done on virtually any stringed instrument – in fact there are instruments like the Chapman Stick that require the use of this method in order to play it. The technique can be done with either one or two hands, and involves the repetitive use of hammer-ons and pull-offs (“tapping” the fingerboard) to create notes.
Similar techniques have been around for centuries, both having been used on instruments like the violin or the Turkish baglama, but the first known usage of tapping on a guitar didn’t happen until sometime in the mid-20th century. This is where things get a little foggy – ask ten guitarists who invented tapping and you’ll get ten different answers!
There is footage of Roy Smeck using the technique on a ukulele in 1932, and Harry DeArmond is alleged to have used a sort of two-hand-technique to test his pickups. Jazz guitarists like Barney Kessell are said to have used the technique in the ’50s and ’60s, and Chet Atkins did it in the ’70s – around the same time that tapping started to be seen in rock and roll. Steve Hackett, Leslie West, Frank Zappa, and Billy Gibbons are all known to have utilized the technique at this time, but the one who really launched it into the mainstream was Eddie van Halen. When his guitar solo “Eruption” was released to the world, it was like nothing ever heard before.
Regardless of who “invented” the technique, what’s important is that all of these musicians helped make it what it is today. Tapping is just another technique that’s hard to imagine the guitar being without.

Guitar Care 101

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is a phrase that rings true for pretty much everything – guitar maintenance included! Most guitar owners understand that string changes, light polishing and getting a set-up when necessary are good ways to keep their instrument in good condition, but often over-look what may seem to be more trivial problems. The thing is, these smaller problems can often turn into big ones down the road. The good news is that if addressed properly, you can easily prevent these problems without a whole lot of technical know-how. Here’s my list of things to watch out for:
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1. Loose Volume / Tone Knob

When the nut that holds a potentiometer (pot) in place is tight enough to hold it still, turning the knob simply rotates the pot’s shaft, giving you that volume or tone change. Here’s something I’ve heard a number of times: “well, my knob was just loose at first but now my guitar doesn’t even work!” So, what happens when it feels loose? The problem is that when you turn a knob that is not securely fastened to the body, chances are you’re turning the whole pot inside the guitar. Doing this will also rotate all the wires connected to the pot, potentially ripping them off or causing them to short somewhere.
So if you don’t want to rip wires off, (which you shouldn’t), the answer would of course be to tighten the bolt that holds the pot in place. Herein lies the next problem: once the bolt is tight enough to grip the pot (but not quite tight enough to hold it in place), just turning the bolt can also turn the whole potentiometer. The trick is to make sure you hold the pot’s shaft still while turning the bolt. I like to use a flat-head screw-driver in the slot to keep it still while tightening.
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2. Loose Output Jack

There’s a couple different ways your output jack can be loose. One: your cable just seems to fall out, and two: the whole jack wiggles around. In the first case, more often than not you can fix this by adjusting the jack’s contact on the inside.
Take the jack assembly off, and plug your cable in. You can see where the cable’s connector makes contact – that long curved metal thingy. This is the piece that holds the cable in, so by removing your cable and gently pushing this piece inward, you should be able to create a better “lock” for your cable.
If your problem is that the whole output jack is loose, you have a similar problem to what I mentioned about the loose volume / tone knobs. You don’t want to just turn the bolt, you need to be able to hold the whole jack still while turning or risk ripping off more wires. The best way to do this would be to take the jack out, and literally hold it with your hand while tightening the bolt.

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3. Loose Strap Buttons

It’s not uncommon for a strap button to spin in its place. While this might not seem like a big deal, if you aren’t using strap locks this makes it easier for your strap to slip off. Also, enough movement can gradually wear the hole that the button’s screw is set into, and eventually just not be secure anymore.
Typically, the cause for a loose strap button is that the screw just isn’t biting into enough wood. The simplest solution to this is to, well, add some wood. Toothpicks are great for this – simply remove the strap button, break up a couple toothpicks and put them in the screw-hole. You’ll notice a much more snug fit immediately.

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4. Sympathetic Buzzing Sounds

Ahh the dreaded buzz. Most often, an annoying buzz is caused by a poor set-up or messed up frets. Occasionally, a different sort of buzz can appear from an entirely different source. These are tricky to pinpoint, but keeping with the theme of fixing loose components, sometimes you can erase these pesky sounds by tightening everything!
When you pluck a string, more than just that string vibrates. Everything on the guitar vibrates, so if there’s a particular component that’s loose, there’s a chance it will rattle. Confirm that every screw and bolt on the guitar is snug, from the machine heads to the saddles, and you may just save yourself a repair bill just by turning some screws!

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5. Grime-encrusted Fretboard

Okay, so here’s the odd one out. No need to tighten anything here! Cleaning your fretboard may seem obvious, but doing it effectively isn’t always carried out. One of the big problems with keeping dirt on your fretboard (among others) is that things can build up underneath your frets, and eventually end up raising them. The last thing you want to do is bring your guitar for a fret level because too much dirt built up underneath the frets.
To really clean out your fretboard, I recommend spraying the board with a few spritzes of a bio-degradable cleaning solution (such as Simple Green), and then scrubbing with a toothbrush. Get in nice and close to the frets with the brush to try and remove any build-up that may already be present. As soon as you’re done scrubbing, wipe off the solution, and apply your lemon oil. You don’t need to do this every time you change strings, it really depends how much you play and.. how dirty your hands are. Which leads me to another point: wash your hands before you play! Your future self (and your guitar) will thank you.

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Debunking Ten Common Guitar Myths

Separating fact from fiction can be difficult regardless of what the subject matter is. If you believe something, then you believe it! It’s as simple as that. You may have even forgotten what source you’ve heard something from, but as long as it seems “right” in your head, it’s natural that you’ll see it as truth until proven otherwise. Misinformation and old wive’s tales are constantly being passed around, and can easily get muddled up with whats true.
Chances are you’ve read or been involved in a debate or discussion about the guitar where two sides believe entirely different things. Or, maybe you’ve just heard something that seems a little hard to believe. Below I’ll list a few common myths surrounding the guitar, and my reasons for debunking them. Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of them in the comments!

1. It’s bad for your guitar to remove all the strings at the same time when re-stringing your guitar.

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When you take your guitar to a tech or a luthier for any sort of fret work, they’re most likely going to be taking all the strings off to grant themselves proper access to the frets. As long as the string tension is reduced gradually, then there’s nothing wrong with taking all the strings off at the same time. What you want to avoid is cutting the strings while they are still tuned to pitch – the drastic drop in tension could potentially cause harm. Also, if your guitar has a floating bridge, you will actually save yourself time by re-stringing it one string at a time. Maintaining as much tension as you can during the re-string process will make it easier to balance the spring tension afterwards, if you even need to.

2. “My guitar has a bad hum, and when I touch the strings / bridge / metal knobs it goes away. It must not be grounded properly!”

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I hear this one all the time. Naturally, one would assume that your body is acting as a ground, soaking up that hum when touching these components. The thing that seems to be forgotten is that your body naturally creates electricity. If you had an improper or reversed ground, touching anything metal on the guitar would actually just cause your body’s electrical noise to be amplified, thus increasing that nauseating buzz sound. If the hum gets quieter when touching metal guitar components, it’s actually a sign that your guitar is grounded properly.
Pretty much every guitar has some sort of 60 cycle hum that is more evident at higher volumes. If you find a guitar that seems to have a worse buzz than another one, it is likely due to a problem with shielding rather than grounding. It is actually amplifying electrical noises from outside the guitar’s circuit. There are things you can do to help with shielding problems such as using higher quality cabling, better pots and wiring, or even rimming the electronics compartment with tin foil – but at the end of the day, you will most likely never quite get rid of that noise entirely. It just comes with the territory!

3. Playing an un-grounded guitar is extremely dangerous!

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Well, maybe for your ears it is. The amount of amperage an electric guitar produces simply isn’t enough to be lethal, or even cause any harm. What you need to be wary of is your amplifier, and the source you are plugging it into. People have literally died in the past from amplifiers that were not properly grounded. So if you notice a shock when you touch your strings, or when your lips touch the microphone while playing, it might be a good idea to get your amp and wall outlet checked out!

4. “Your tune-o-matic bridge is on backwards.”

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This is a common issue you’ll find players debating. When you look at a tune-o-matic bridge, the intonation adjustment screws are on one side only. The argument is always over which side these should be facing for the bridge to be on “properly”. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. There is no universal right or wrong direction for the bridge to be on; it should be placed in the direction that makes the most sense for the particular guitar it is on. For example, if your bridge happens to be located really close to your bridge pickup, and you like your bridge pickup to sit rather close to the strings, it might be in your best interest to have the intonation adjustment screws facing the tail of the guitar. That way it’s not impossible to intonate.
Many tune-o-matic bridges feature 3 saddles facing one direction, while the other three face the opposite way. Others feature saddles all angled the same direction. Here’s a quick doodle I did to help picture a saddle from the side:

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Consider this: depending on the break-angle of the string, it may be best to have the intonation screws facing the pickups as shown here. In rare occasions the break is so great that the string makes contact with the screw, which is of course not something you want.
Also in the diagram, you can see that the string rests on the saddle at its leftmost side. This means you have more room to shorten the string than you do to lengthen it. If your E string’s saddle is facing this way, for example, and it consistently intonates too sharp (even with the saddle pushed all the way to the right), consider flipping the bridge or saddles. With the saddles  facing the opposite direction, this will give you almost an entire saddle’s length extra to lengthen the string!

5. A Nitro-finished electric guitar sounds better than a poly-finished one.

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To me, this is just a similar argument to “a les paul sounds better than a strat”. It’s entirely subjective. Is there even a difference? I don’t know, I’ve never A-B’d two identical guitars that had the same weight, wood, shape, and electronics, but one had a nitro finish and the other had poly. Some would argue that poly “chokes” the resonance of the guitar more than nitro does, therefore making for an inferior sounding instrument. I can see such an argument holding more water for an acoustic guitar – these are entirely dependent upon their wood and the way it vibrates. That said, I’m not really convinced that a slightly thicker compound would ruin the tone of an electric guitar. Sure, the finish might look, feel, and age differently, but I’m not going to squander the opportunity to try out a potentially great sounding guitar just because of its finish. If I play a guitar and like how it sounds, then it sounds good. That’s my criteria, anyway…

6. You need to have natural talent to become a “guitar god”.

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I find that this would be almost insulting to every “guitar god” out there. It’s as if to say they inherited their talent rather than worked for it, when in fact these musicians worked very hard to be able to do what they do. It’s true that if you’re brought up on music, then maybe you’ll have a bit of a knack for it when you decide to start playing an instrument – but it still requires a lot of dedication and practise. If anything, it could be argued that you need good people/business skills coupled with skill and ability to become a “guitar god”. There are and have been TONS of incredible guitar players out there that we’ve probably never heard of because in the music business, there’s more to it than just being “really really good”.

7. You need to practise for several hours each day to become a good player.

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To this I say: quality over quantity. You could practise for 8 hours a day and go nowhere if you aren’t being productive about it. Without proper instruction, research, and practise, you can easily end up developing bad habits that hinder your overall playing, or just spend too much time on something that isn’t helping you. Thirty minutes to an hour of focused, co-ordinated practise is more than enough to keep you on track and on your way to becoming a good guitarist. Private lessons are also a great way to help you establish a good practise routine.

8.  You need a 100 watt stack amp if you want to play in a loud rock band.

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Unless you plan on playing in a sold out arena or stadium some time soon, then you really don’t need that much power. Keep this in mind: twice as much wattage is not synonymous with twice as much volume. It actually takes ten times the output power to effectively double the human ear’s perception of volume. In other words, if you were thinking of getting an amp that could be twice as loud as a 50 watt, you would need a 500 watt – not a 100.
If the typical venue you’ll be playing in is a bar, or a small theater, you probably won’t be able to set your 100 watt amp’s level too high before your bandmates (and the sound technician) are screaming at you to turn down. The problem is, in order to get the best tone out of your amp, normally you need to run it pretty hot. Using a 30 – 50 watt amp is more than enough to allow you to play at a good level and achieve the tone you want for a decent sized venue. Not to mention you can easily get mic’d up and run through the sound board for a better control over the mix!

9. The fatter the string, the better the tone.

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Once again, we have a subjective statement. To me, this phrase should be “the fatter the string, the different the tone”. Artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Zak Wylde have been known for creating unbelievable tones using their super thick gauge strings. That’s a fact; these are two incredible, individual guitar tones that are “owned” by these two artists. That said, there are other guitarists who have created super heavy sounds using thin strings. James Hetfield? .009. Eddie Van Halen? Also .009. Jimmy Page? He prefers .008! My advice: use what feels and sounds good to you.

10. If it’s not “brand name”, it’s crap.

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I think this is society’s fault. We feel this way about everything… Going for a run? Get a pair of Nike’s! Want to go for a coffee? Only if it’s Starbucks! Name two good guitar brands… I bet you just thought of two words that rhyme with “blender” and “bibson”.
That’s not to say that these brands aren’t good – many of the guitars they make are! They’re the big guys who have stood the test of time, and they’ve done so for a reason. Partially because they started off with a great product, and partially because of advertising and word of mouth. What you need to remember though is that just because it has the name on the headstock, that doesn’t make it good. These brands make various quality levels of instruments, and while their higher-end stuff might be fantastic, their lower end guitars really aren’t any different from others at the same price-point. You could take two of the exact same model guitar priced at, say, $700 and one could be incredible, and the other a dud – especially when coming from such large, mass production facilities.
The best coffee I’ve ever had is from a small, family-run restaurant near my hometown. Not a Starbucks. In my opinion, the best guitar you’ll ever play could be one built by a local luthier specifically for you. That doesn’t sound like crap to me!